Adventure is as easy as a kayak and a hat. Chasing it down I realise can be a balance of effort, timing and timetables, so mini-adventures can be the way to go. You only have to drive over the familiar Mooney Mooney Bridge in either direction and glimpse the Mooney Mooney Creek below to activate a sense of adventure.
The creek seems to disappear behind sandstone cliffs and dense forest. “The unknown …”, I say. I’ve rattled the question in my head so many times – “What lies beyond that bend in the creek?”
Located within the Brisbane Water National Park, Mooney Mooney Creek, despite its name, is actually designated a river. It snakes south, eventually meeting up with the Hawkesbury River. It’s best tackled as close to the bridge as possible, if you are going upstream, and there are plenty of spots to launch from. We parked about 50m down from the bridge, unloaded the kayaks, applied sunblock, grabbed the camera, threw in a bottle of water and away we went.
The launch-off is easy. The creek is pretty wide here, very much the river it actually is. The intimacy of a creek is to be discovered upstream where it narrows. The water is a touch muddy and just for good measure the rocks are brown, slippery and muddy as well. Don’t stand on them, you’ll take a bingle. It’s a fairly nondescript entry point but with the promise of more a little further on.
As you begin your paddle, the Mooney Mooney Bridge draws you on. It’s an impressive piece of engineering. It’s size, viewed at water level, is monstrous. Nature has rallied as best it can, employing thick forest to soften the brute. Trees run up the pylons like lumpy, green woollen socks hard against the concrete. There’s no menace to the bridge and it’s far from ugly, but it forms an odd coupling of engineering and nature that somehow works. It’s a contrast that demands your attention and makes you lose your place in the river for a while.
Once we remember where we are, our mission is to paddle until it becomes impassable, some 3.5km northwest, around five or six bends we understand.There the river, squeezed by boulders, becomes little more than a series of rock pools adorned by nature.
Once past the bridge, you begin to commune with your surroundings. The gentle green is only broken by the hyper orange-red of my kayak. My companion in paddling, Adam, points out that his Kermit-green-forest-pot-pouri kayak is far more wildlife friendly. Brash and bright, my plummaged kayak is a disgrace and likely to scare all living things out of water and off land. Heckling over, we continue.
After some 45 minutes paddling the muddy waters become more brackish, lighter and the narrowing of the river begins. The waterway now has more character, with broken tree limbs strewn across sandbanks. Startled movements reveal birds and water dragons scurrying to safer vantage points. The eucalyptus forest comes right down the banks and we see semi-rainforest trees like coachwood and water gums becoming more common. The further we go, the more diverse the paddle becomes.
The wildlife on this day was pretty good, but we’ve heard it can be spectacular. From an overhanging branch we see a cormorant drying its stumpy wings. A sea eagle, startled, leaves one tree only to reappear at another around the corner, curious for a second before it takes off once again.
The air is wet on this day, and the smell of humid, damp vegetation sits on the tip of my nose. The switch from wide, dirty river to intimate, narrow creek is complete within an hour and 20 minutes. The water is almost yellow. Bream play a type of frenetic water polo, jumping out from fallen logs, while partially submerged trees provide the perfect perch for colourful kingfishers with their fascinator feathers.
Eventually the water stops, blocked by boulders and the way forward comes to a halt. Any further exploration would require shoes, a map and some band aids. Next time. But it’s a perfect spot to pull up stumps, crack a bottle of wine, and bask in the surrounds of the river … Well it would be if you’d thought to bring a bottle.
While the Mooney isn’t the paddle of a lifetime, it is a beautiful waterway, needing only a little effort and no maps or survival gear. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do it either. It’s a paddle well worth the investigation.